Ask anyone who plays a stringed instrument and they’ll tell you getting into tune isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it can be kind of a drag. Every guitarist has a favorite tuner they’ve settled on after using a bunch of junky ones. Their least worst option.
That’s where the Roadie 2 and Roadie Bass come in: standalone automatic tuners that use vibration detection to quickly—and with robotic accuracy—tune almost any stringed instrument with a guitar machine head.
The Roadie 2 Kickstarter campaign, running until May 6, is the follow-up to Band Industries’ successful 2013 campaign for the Roadie. Instrumentalists from Queen, the Tim McGraw Band, Drowning Pool, Grand Funk Railroad and more got their hands on the device a little early. They all show up in the Kickstarter campaign video to assure wary backers that yes, it really works.
“It’s a really cool little product,” Three Doors Down guitarist Chet Roberts says, turning it over in his hands. “I love it.”
In a recent phone interview with Behind the Setlist, Band Industries V.P. of Sales and Partnerships Sam Force called the Roadie 2 and Roadie Bass a “quantum leap forward” over the original. The original, while accurate, required a smartphone app to use, and electric guitars needed to be plugged in via a Roadie jack. Acoustic tuning relied on noise-cancellation software to cut through ambient noise, which slowed the process down. Plus, it was too weak to twist the pegs of a bass guitar.
Because it uses vibration detection instead of audio, the Roadie 2 can tune an electric guitar that isn’t plugged into anything. It can even tune a banjo in a noisy room. For a few extra bucks, the Roadie Bass has the torque needed to tighten those fat strings.
“Bassists are traditionally forgotten,” Force said. “They’re asked to use all guitar tools, and that’s not always perfect for them. If only the guitarist is in tune but the bassist is wildly out of tune, the band still isn’t going to be able to have that clean sound.”
One of the big goals coming out of the original Roadie project, other than adding bass compatibility, was to streamline the device. The shift to vibration detection was crucial here as well, making it possible to eliminate the need for the Roadie jack and smartphone mic. The addition of a small screen on the Roadie 2 means you can switch instruments and tunings without having to use the app to make selections. It has haptic feedback too, buzzing when each string is in tune so you don’t have to watch what you’re doing.
“The less stuff you have to think about, the better when you’re managing your equipment,” Force said. “With this, it’s just like your own finger. You put the thing on the peg, pluck the string and it just does the job.”
That job is as simple or as complicated as the player wants it to be. You can pick up the Roadie 2 and, with the speed of a machine, tune a 12-string guitar more accurately than the human ear can detect. Use it to do the heavy lifting when you put new strings on your mandolin, for example. “Spend more time playing,” Force said, “and less time tuning.”
The Roadie 2 is also a handy gadget for gigging musicians who need to manage multiple instruments and studio musicians looking to dig deep into alternative tunings. The device itself comes with an array of alternative tunings built-in, accessible at any time. You can open up the Roadie app to set up custom tunings, tweak your tempering, even play with capo settings. Push those settings to the device and they’ll be added to its library.
“That’s a huge thing when you’re gigging, being able to bring as much as you can to the table and do so comfortably,” Force said. A guitarist may be reluctant to change tunings in the middle of a performance, especially a solo artist who has to hold the audience’s attention. The Roadie 2 does most of the tuning work for you. “It’s a really cool way for musicians to have a higher confidence level and feel like they have a larger play style.”
The Roadie 2 also comes loaded with settings to help you tune floating bridge and Floyd Rose guitars, a huge step-up over the original for players who fall into that vocal niche. “We hear from those people more than we hear from the soup and nuts guy crushing out his A chords,” Force said. “Having them be comfortable and be happy with our tool is really important for our feeling that we’re able to serve musicianship as a whole.”
It’s understandable to feel some reluctance in supporting crowdfunded gear before it hits the market, but in this case the deals may be worth it. Band Industries proved with the first Roadie that they could make good on their promises. An $89 pledge today will get you a Roadie 2 in October. That’ll be $109 for the Roadie Bass, which works with all the same instruments plus bass. Those deals each save you $40 over the eventual retail prices of $129 and $149. Save a little more with the “friend pack,” or donate $10 to the cause and get a sticker and pick.
If you think you may ever want to grab a Roadie 2 or Roadie Bass, they’re not likely to get any cheaper than that. Force says the Band Industries team returned to Kickstarter in part because they wanted to offer those deals to the people who supported them so much the first time around.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a community that’s engaged with what you care about and gets a lot out of what you’re trying to create,” Force said. “This is the most fun way to succeed with a project.”
If that’s the case, then the Band Industries team is having a lot of fun. The original Roadie campaign raised nearly $180,000, tripling its $60,000 funding goal. The Roadie 2 campaign, with more than a week left to hit a $50,000 target, has already cracked $360,000.
Band Industries is already looking toward to the future for ways to get Roadie 2 and Roadie Bass into music schools and programs that encourage kids to learn instruments. Anyone who works with an organization that could use the technology is encouraged to contact the company and get the ball rolling.
“We have a lot of hardware that we really want to put in the right hands to benefit as many people as possible,” Force said.
Spike Edney, a multi-instrumentalist best known for playing piano with Queen in concert, wishes he could’ve gotten his hands on a Roadie 2 a long time ago.
“Do you know how bloody difficult it is to keep a 12-string in tune?” he says in the Kickstarter video. “This has come along at the end of my career. Thank you, you little wankers.”
Learn more at RoadieTuner.com.
Follow Behind the Setlist